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"30th SMA National Medical Convention"

In conjunction with the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Singapore Medical Association, it was opportune that we held our 30th SMA Annual Medical Convention in the United Nations-designated International Year of Older Persons. As SMA has already realised the significance of the problems of the elderly in our society in the years to come, focus on relevant issues have been given in the medical conventions in the past few years. This year, given the golden opportunity, we have decided to make a concerted effort to reinforce an overall social consciousness of this issue.

To create an impact to the relevant parties at various social levels, we have decided to hold more than our usual once-off convention for the public. Instead, a series of public seminars were planned to cover as broad a spectrum of elderly-related issues as possible. They range from education on the primary preventive healthcare measures, to skills for coping with psychosocial problems and management of other practical issues. These include coping with life events, such as the loss of spouse, and other forms of stress and anxieties that come with age, making a will, purchase of insurance, planning of future medical expenses, etc. The participants who have made this event possible included not only doctors. There were also social workers, nurses, hospital administrators, dietitians, voluntary and professional workers in organisations for the elderly such as the Tsao Foundation, SAGE (Singapore Action Group of Elders), etc. Among the doctors, other than geriatricians, the speakers also included psychiatrists, sport medicine specialists from the School of Physical Education, primary healthcare doctors from the Polyclinics and specialists from the Accident and Emergency Departments, etc. We were also fortunate to have the Ministry of Community Development to support us by being a co-organiser for our event.

For the convenience of the older people, the three monthly public seminars were held in the Revenue House at Newton Road, just opposite the Novena MRT station. The seminars were also held in two languages, Mandarin and English, in order to cater to a larger public. Each time, we saw a total turnout of about 300, over the weekend. It was heartening to know that what we did was useful at least to some when we found some of the members of the public actually coming up to thank us for holding the seminars.

As a finale to the series of activities, there was our annual convention held in April. It was held bilingually in Westin Hotel on 25 April 1999, dealing with an inevitable but much feared life event - hospitalisation. We felt that much of the public grouses and misunderstanding arising from their personal or relatives’ admission to the hospital can be avoided if only they know how the hospital is run and what to expect for certain common medical conditions. Simply knowing what to expect can allay much unnecessary anxiety and avoid a lot of misunderstanding. The other aspect of hospitalisation that was addressed in this public convention was the problems that are tied up with the discharge of the patients – follow-up care and available social services, etc. The long term needs of the carers of the elderly ill were also addressed. We felt that this was an equally important aspect of hospitalisation. We hope that by giving them the guidance and support, the potential carers will be encouraged to take over the care of the elderly patients when the patients are deemed fit for discharge from the hospital. Mr Abdullah Tarmugi, Minister for Community Development, was present as the Guest Of Honour, to open the Convention.

On the same day, a medical symposium, targeted at the family practitioners on some elderly-related health problems, were organised.

We felt that the family practitioners, as the first line medical personnel in the community, should be equipped with the necessary knowledge to deal with some of the day-to-day problems faced by patients of this age group which is rapidly increasing in proportion. Drs Chee Tek Siong, Ang Chee Beng, V Atputharajah and Alex Fok spoke on cardiac, dermatological and sexual problems of the older people. This was very well attended with about 200 doctors, even on a Sunday afternoon!

With that, we wrap up our 30th SMA Medical Convention for the year 1999. With the next millennium lurking around the corner, we look forward to preparing a better programme and seeing everybody same time next year. Till then, Adieus!


Community Health Education

(Afternote: Copies of the Convention Souvenir Magazines which come with the synopses of all the talks are still available. Please contact SMA if you wish to obtain a copy of it.)